Q&A: The Value of Vulnerability: 27 Sep 2015, Question 2
Q&A: Evaluating Romantic Prospects: 6 Sep 2015, Question 3
Question: Is vulnerability of value? In a recent blog post, you stated "...I'm opting for a 'vulnerability through strength' and 'strength through vulnerability' route..." Could you please explain this idea? Why is vulnerability something that should be cultivated in the first place? It doesn't seem compatible with rational egoism, given that "vulnerability" and "weakness" are often used interchangeably.
Tags: Communication, Egoism, Ethics, Psychology, Relationships, Resilience, Romance, Visibility, Vulnerability
Q&A: Death Notifications via Facebook: 2 Aug 2015, Question 3
Question: How can I efficiently evaluate potential romantic prospects? When introduced to a person – or out on a first or second date – it's often difficult to evaluate that person quickly and fairly as a potential romantic prospect. What should I look for? What questions should I ask? What kinds of qualities – moral and psychological – should I regard as particularly important, for better or worse?
Tags: Communication, Dating, Ethics, Hobbies, Objectivism, Politics, Religion, Romance, Values
Q&A: Stigmatized Property: 19 Jul 2015, Question 3
Question: Am I wrong to be upset that I learned of my uncle's death via Facebook? My uncle recently died. We weren't close, but I would have expected a phone call from my parents about it. Instead, I learned about his death via a Facebook status update from one of my cousins (not his child, but his niece). I've been really angry that I learned such momentous news that way, but I'm having trouble explaining why to my family. Am I wrong to be upset? If I should be upset, what's wrong with what happened? What should I say to my parents now?
Tags: Adult Children, Communication, Death, Emotions, Family, Relationships
Q&A: Questions about Religious Beliefs: 12 Jul 2015, Question 1
Question: Should sellers of homes be obliged to report the spiritual or criminal history of the property? Many state laws require that "stigmatized" properties, such as those with a history of paranormal activity or a past owner such as Jeffrey Dahmer, be reported by real estate agents. That leads to the home being devalued in price. Should such a law exist? Moreover, should potential buyers take advantage of any "stigmatized" property, thereby offering and paying less, even though belief in paranormal activity is irrational?
Tags: Communication, Contracts, Epistemology, Ethics, Honesty, Law, Metaphysics, Property Rights, Rationality, Supernatural, Tact
Q&A: Satisfying Social Needs: 5 Jul 2015, Question 1
Question: How should a doctor respond to questions about her religious beliefs? My wife recently told me about a colleague of hers – a physician and an atheist – being caught off guard when asked by the parents of one of her cancer patients in the hospital if she believed in God. These parents wanted their son treated only by a doctor who believes in God, and my wife's friend did not qualify. How should she have answered their question?
Tags: Boundaries, Business, Career, Christianity, Communication, Honesty, Medicine, Openness, Relationships, Religion, Respect
Q&A: Exceptions to Rules: 28 Jun 2015, Question 1
Question: What should a person do about social and psychological needs he temporarily can't satisfy? For right now, the context of my life makes it so that it's hard to satisfy the needs for companionship. Most of the people around me don't offer deep and intense enough values to satisfy it, even as I do have friends. The majority of the people who could fulfill my needs live out of state. Furthermore, the industry I work in, by and large, prohibits me from being able to attend clubs and whatnot, as I usually work when they run. As such, I've got to grin and bear my loneliness for the meanwhile, temporarily. How can I make myself feel better in doing so?
Tags: Communication, Family, Friendship, Loneliness, Psychology, Relationships, Values
Q&A: Political Correctness: 21 Jun 2015, Question 2
Question: When should exceptions to established rules be granted? People often oppose some proposed exception to the rules on the grounds that doing so would set a dangerous precedent and engender abuse. For example, suppose that an honest and diligent student is in the hospital, and he wants to keep up with his school work as much as possible. His parents propose that he take his math exam from the hospital, and they'll monitor him during the exam. The school refuses on the grounds that if all students were allowed to do that, then cheating would be rampant because not all parents would be honest or diligent monitors. Is that a valid reason for refusing this proposed exception to the rules? When should exceptions be granted to established rules?
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Personality, Principles, Psychology, Respect, Rules
Q&A: Respect without Agreement: 21 Jun 2015, Question 1
Question: What is the value of "political correctness"? I used to be a fairly typical right-winger who would regularly cry out "political correctness has gone mad!" While I still come across politically correct ideas that I find ridiculous (e.g. the ban bossy campaign), I'm finding myself more sympathetic to these ideas as I become more informed on them. So I'm now in favor of using the right pronouns for transgender people, avoiding words that can be perceived as derogatory (e.g. fag), and even changing school event names like "parent day" or "Christmas party" to something that doesn't exclude those it doesn't apply to. Where should the line be drawn between "political correctness" and making valuable change in our language or practices to be more accommodating and inclusive of people outside the mainstream? Are there legitimate concerns about language becoming more politically correct?
Tags: Benevolence, Communication, Conservatism, Culture, Diversity, Epistemology, Ethics, Package-Deals, Political Correctness, Progressivism, Respect, Tolerance, Values
Q&A: Responsibility for a Child: 14 Jun 2015, Question 1
Question: How can I help my father understand that I respect him, even when I disagree with him? I generally value experience for its ability to provide helpful insights, but I am suspicious of people who fall back on appeals to authority in an attempt to win arguments. My father often does that during our debates on various subjects, as we do not see eye-to-eye on many important issues. When I reject his appeals on the grounds that they are logically fallacious, he takes personal offense and accuses me of disrespecting him. I respect my father, and I try to convey my appreciation for his experience in other ways. But I want to have civil discourse with him that doesn't dead-end in this uncomfortable way someday. My father and I have been estranged for the last five years, in large part due to his tendency toward communicating in this and other manipulative ways, and my current attempt at reconciliation is failing again because of these communication issues. This is a shame because I truly feel that the makings of a good father-daughter relationship are in place, but my father cannot seem to stop predicating our ability to love and respect each other on my willingness to constantly agree with him simply because he is my father. What advice can you give on how best to halt this unhealthy pattern, so that I can save my relationship with my dad?
Tags: Authority, Boundaries, Communication, Epistemology, Logic, Parenting, Relationships, Respect, Rhetoric, Values
Q&A: Friendship with a Devout Theist: 17 May 2015, Question 3
Question: When is a person responsible for an unexpected and unwanted child? Sex sometimes results in an unexpected and perhaps unwanted pregnancy. What are the moral responsibilities of each party in this situation? Do a person's obligations depend on prior agreements about what would be done in such a case? Do they depend on whether contraception was used or not? If the man said that he didn't want children and used contraception, yet a pregnancy occurs, does he have any moral or legal obligation to pay for an abortion, support the child, or act as a father? Does the answer change if the woman agreed to have an abortion in advance, then changes her mind? Should couples talk explicitly about these matters before sex?
Tags: Abortion, Children, Communication, Dating, Ethics, Law, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Responsibility, Romance, Sex
Q&A: Cutting Ties with Homophobic Family Members: 3 May 2015, Question 3
Question: Should I end my friendship with a persistent and devout Christian? I am an atheist who has been befriended by a very devout Christian (read: an ex-missionary). I often find that our philosophical differences prevent me from expressing myself the way I would like. However, this friend has been very devoted to pursuing a deeper friendship with me despite my attempts to keep the relationship very casual. She calls me her "best friend" to others and goes out of her way to forge a deeper bond by regularly telling me how "special" I am to her and reiterating how close to me she feels. She will often say that she regards me as a "sister." I am puzzled by her persistence, given that she has so many friendship options within her Church and the rest of the Christian community. I am also increasingly uncomfortable with our interactions, given their necessarily narrow breadth and depth: we tend to focus our discussions mainly on a shared hobby we enjoy that has nothing to do with religion or philosophy. I really value time spent engaging in philosophical discussions with my other friends, and this is simply not possible with her. The dilemma is that she has been admirably non-judgmental toward my lifestyle, at least outwardly. She does not proselytize or try to "convert" me. (I have made it clear to her that this is not possible.) Still, our friendship feels vacant to me. I have tried to express my concerns to her at various times but her response is always that she loves me and accepts me "no matter what." I think she is being sincere, but it feels like a manipulation or, at least, an evasion of our many differences. Still, I always end up feeling guilty for keeping her at a distance while she works so hard to be my friend. Should I end this friendship once and for all?
Tags: Boundaries, Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Philosophy, Relationships, Religion, Values
Podcast: Why Personality Matters in Politics... But Not in the Way You Think: 26 Apr 2015
Question: Should I cut ties with my homophobic family? My boyfriend and I visit my family every year for Christmas, and every year they treat him rudely and unfairly. This is solely because they do not accept my sexuality, and they blame him for it. I have made it very clear that if their behavior continues, I will no longer visit them on holidays. They always agree to my terms, but as soon as we arrive, they immediately go back on their word. To make matters worse, I visited them alone this summer for my birthday. During my visit, the daughter of a family friend "just happened to stop by." It was very clear to me that this was a set up. When we received a moment alone, I told her that I was in a happy, committed relationship with a man. Her reaction showed that she was entirely deceived. I left the house, and I have not spoken to my family since. I have no desire to have a relationship with them. Should I permanently end the relationship?
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Family, GLBT, Relationships
Q&A: Being Helpful to a Disliked Co-Worker: 29 Mar 2015, Question 3
Summary: Do you ever worry that you're just talking past people in your political advocacy? You might be! Happily, by understanding how your own personality differs from that of others, you can become more persuasive and effective in politics (and in life). In this interactive discussion, philosopher Diana Brickell explained some of the major personality differences between people, then explore how they function in political debate. She showed how minor shifts in emphasis or approach – not compromises on principle – can make others more receptive to your ideas. This talk was given at Liberty on the Rocks, Flatirons on October 28, 2013.
Tags: Communication, Personality, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, Values
Q&A: People Unworthy of the Truth: 8 Mar 2015, Question 2
Question: Should I do something nice for a coworker I dislike? There's a lady at work that I dislike. My conflict with her is primarily merely a conflict of personality. I find her defensive, passive-aggressive, and awkward to the point of rudeness. I am also not very impressed with her work products, but that rarely has a direct impact on me – except when I'm asked to review them – as is the fact that she only seems to work for about six hours every day. Indirectly, of course, her eccentricities and poor work quality cast our team in a very poor light and could eventually serve as a reason to dissolve or lay off our team. It's a mystery as to why she hasn't been fired. But I'm not her manager. In a meeting earlier today, she made a remark that she thought she was being excluded from important meetings that are relevant to her work. The truth is that she's not being actively excluded from these meetings, but rather everything is happening so fast and the meetings aren't always planned, so it's really just not possible to include her in those meetings. She would probably be heartened to understand better how these events take place in our company. (She's rather new, and I am very tenured.) She might feel better about her position and she might become less defensive about things if she had a better understanding of the organizational mechanics here. But I strongly dislike her and would prefer that she seek other employment. Should I be kind and explain those mechanics or not?
Tags: Benevolence, Business, Communication, Ethics, Relationships
Q&A: Coming Out as an Atheist: 1 Mar 2015, Question 3
Question: Are some people unworthy of the truth? "Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it," said Mark Twain in his Notebooks
. Is that true? Does that justify lying or withholding information?
Tags: Character, Communication, Deception, Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Justice, Moral Judgment, Relationships
Q&A: Declining Gift Solicitations: 25 Jan 2015, Question 2
Question: How can I avoid coming out as an atheist to my boyfriend's parents? I'm gay and my long-time, live-in boyfriend recently came out to his parents. They are older and pretty religious, but they are doing their best to be accepting of our relationship. However, my boyfriend says that they believe that I am changing him for the worse in that he has not been as communicative and open with them because he didn't come out to them sooner and has not been sharing the progression of our relationship with them. (The whole concept of being in the closet seems completely alien to them.) But they do know our relationship is serious, so they have invited us to spend the holidays with them in order to get to know me better. My boyfriend says that they will insist that we attend church with them and has asked that I not tell them that I'm an atheist right away. I've explained to him that I am not going to lie about anything, but I am not sure how to remain true to my convictions without making things more difficult for my boyfriend and upsetting his parents. What are your suggestions for making the Christmas holidays pleasant while maintaining my integrity?
Tags: Adult Children, Atheism, Communication, GLBT, Parenting, Privacy, Religion, Secrets, Values
Q&A: Insulting with Racial Epithets: 11 Jan 2015, Question 3
Question: How can I refuse solicitations for gifts for co-workers? I work in a department of about thirty people. In the past few months, we have been asked to contribute money to buy gifts for co-workers – for engagements, baby showers, bereavement flowers, and Christmas gifts for the department chair, administrative assistants, housekeeping staff, and lab manager. Generally these requests are made by e-mail, and I can see from the "reply all" messages that everyone else contributes. Often these donations add up to a large amount ($10-20 each time). I do not wish to take part, but am worried that since I am a newer employee my lack of participation will be interpreted negatively. What can I do?
Tags: Benevolence, Business, Communication, Ethics, Gifts, Relationships
Q&A: Participating in Superstitious Rituals: 4 Jan 2015, Question 1
Question: Is it wrong to use racist epithets to insult the truly evil? A now-former Facebook friend used a racist epithet in reference to Islamic terrorists. I asked him if he understood that it was a racist term and he said he did and said that he used it on purpose to insult those evil-doers because they are so evilly evil that they deserve not even a little respect. I told him he was wrong because race is not the same as ideology and that I can't find any justification for racism, so I un-friended him. I agree that Islamic terrorists are evil, but is it morally okay to be a racist toward evil people?
Tags: Communication, Communication, Culture, Ethics, Islam, Objectivity, Race, Racism, Religion, Terrorism
Q&A: Managing Differences with Family: 14 Dec 2014, Question 1
Question: Is it wrong to participate in superstitious rituals without taking them seriously? If I make some perfunctory observance or participation in some superstitious ritual, and do not believe the superstitious ritual is of any literal importance, am I still promoting irrationality? If I regularly read the horoscope in the newspaper, but do not believe astrology has any real impact on my life, does reading the horoscope promote irrationality? Likewise, in Hawaii, almost all retail establishments possess what are called "good-luck cats." A good-luck cat is a relatively inexpensive Asian figurine depicting a cat with one paw raised. Having this figurine is supposed to bring good luck to your business. You can commonly see such good-luck cat figurines in doctor's offices in Honolulu, and for your retail establishment not to have such a figurine would easily strike people as strange. If I spent just a little money on such a good-luck cat to decorate my business, and I didn't literally believe the figurine itself affected my fortunes, would the purchase be a concession to irrational thinking? Would such a gesture be "social proof" that would help other people rationalize more obviously pathological forms of irrationality, such as wasting hundreds of dollars on fortune tellers and psychic hotlines?
Tags: Business, Communication, Ethics, Holidays, Humor, Rationality, Religion, Sanction, Science, Superstition
Q&A: Meaningless Gift Exchanges: 7 Dec 2014, Question 3
Question: How should a young adult manage persistent differences with his family? As I grew up, I turned out radically different from what my family expected. They think college is necessary for success in life. I didn't, and I dropped out. They eat the Standard American Diet and hate fat. I eat Paleo, and I glorify fat. And so on. Basically, we diverge on many points. I've never committed the mistake of attempting to preach to my family in order to persuade them, but many of them grew unduly concerned with these differences between us. They would argue with me on the subject for months, if not years, no matter what good results I had to show them. Assuming that the relationship is otherwise worth maintaining, how should an older child or young adult handle such contentious differences with his family? How can he best communicate his point of view to them – for example, on the question of college, after they've saved for two decades for his college education?
Tags: Boundaries, Communication, Ethics, Family, Independence, Parenting, Personality, Rationality, Relationships, Rhetoric, Values
Q&A: Obsessing over Past Conversations: 30 Nov 2014, Question 3
Question: How can I stop exchanging meaningless holiday presents with my siblings? My siblings and I are friendly but not close, but we still exchange Christmas presents. Mostly, that means that we buy each other stuff that we really don't want. That seems like a waste of time and money. I'd like to stop exchanging gifts with them, but how can I do so without hurting their feelings?
Tags: Benevolence, Communication, Family, Family, Holidays, Relationships, Siblings
Q&A: Fighting Words: 30 Nov 2014, Question 2
Question: How can I stop obsessing over past conversations? After having a conversation with someone, I often obsess about what I said to them and the way that I said it. I think about they ways they could have misinterpreted what I meant, and I worry that they thought I was being rude or disrespectful. Most of the time, of course, whatever nuances I thought would offend them were either non-existent or just went straight over their head. How can I overcome this obsessiveness, while still maintaining a healthy level of concern for how what I say may be interpreted?
Tags: Character, Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Psychology, Reputation
Q&A: Sleeping Around: 9 Nov 2014, Question 3
Question: Do verbal insults sometimes justify a response of physical violence? In a recent discussion of bullying, most people agreed that the child in question should not have hit the kids bullying him, given that those bullies were merely making awful remarks, as opposed to being violent or threatening. However, one person suggested that a physically violent response might be justified if all other avenues were exhausted – meaning that the bully was told to stop, efforts to enlist the help of the authorities failed, and a warning was given. Is that right? Is it ever right to respond to purely verbal insults with physical violence?
Tags: Bullying, Children, Communication, Crime, Crime, Education, Ethics, Free Speech, Law, Parenting, Rights, Violence
Q&A: Increasing Psychological Visibility: 30 Oct 2014, Question 2
Question: Why would anyone even want to sleep around? Ayn Rand used Francisco D'Anconia to describe her view of sexuality in Atlas Shrugged, but while her explanation was easy enough to understand, there were some things she left out. Namely: why would someone, anyone, sleep around? I've met, and read articles by, women who describe their experiences in the "hookup" culture, and across the board they agree that most of the men they slept with were poor lovers who cared little for them once the act was finished. I know men like this in real life who seem surprised at how unfulfilling their sex lives (admittedly much more active than mine) really are. So I have to ask: why would someone choose to have sex with someone when they know, or at least have good reason to believe, that the person has no actual interest in them personally?
Tags: Communication, Honesty, Promiscuity, Romance, Sex, Values
Q&A: "The Friend Zone": 31 Aug 2014, Question 1
Question: How can I achieve greater psychological visibility? Recently, I realized that many of my emotional difficulties in life – such as in maintaining motivation or keeping serene – may be exacerbated by feelings of psychological invisibility. In other words, I feel uncared for and unnoticed, and the deep dissatisfaction stemming from that could be potentially affecting a lot of areas in my life. For instance, I recently spoke to my manager as to my problems at work, and it made me feel so uniquely good that I was able to finish my shift in peace and on-track, in contrast to the bitter, near seething prior hours. That unique feeling indicates that I may have a deep unfulfilled emotional need in this area, hurting other realms of performance. Thus, what is psychological visibility? What does it add to my life? How can I satisfy it?
Tags: Communication, Friendship, Psychological Visibility, Relationships, Romance, Values
Q&A: Debating Christian Versus Objectivist Ethics: 24 Aug 2014, Question 2
Question: Is there any validity to the concept of "the friend zone"? The "friend zone" is used to describe the situation of a man who is interested in a woman, but she's not interested in being more than friends with him. Then, he's "in the friend zone," and he can't get out except by her say-so. So "nice guys" in the friend zone often use the concept to describe the frustration of watching the women they desire date "bad boys" while they sit over to the side waiting for their chance to graduate from being just friends to being something more. Feminists suggest that this concept devalues a woman's right to determine the context and standard of their sexual and romantic interests, that it treats a woman's sexual acceptance as something that a man is entitled to by virtue of not being a jerk. Is that right? Or do women harm themselves by making bad choices about the types of men they date versus the types they put in the "friend zone?"
Tags: Assertiveness, Causality, Communication, Dating, Ethics, Friendship, Honesty, Relationships, Romance, Sexism, Values
Podcast: Moral Conflicts and the Virtue of Justice: 20 Aug 2014
Question: Why is the Objectivist ethics superior to Christian ethics? I was recently invited to participate in a live student debate at a local church on the topic, "Who Was the Better Moral Philosopher: Ayn Rand or Jesus?". The audience will be mostly Christian or neutral: there will only be a handful of people familiar with Objectivism present. What points would you make if you were to speak to an audience of interested laypeople on this topic? What subjects might be best to avoid? What aspects of Jesus' ethics might be good to highlight as flaws? What resources – other than the primary sources – might you suggest on this topic?
Tags: Altruism, Christianity, Communication, Conflict, Egoism, Epistemology, Ethics, Meta-Ethics, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Trader Principle
Interview: Robert Garmong on Love and Sex in China: 7 Aug 2014
Summary: As we live our lives, some people will harm us by their moral wrongs and honest errors, and we may commit such wrongs and errors ourselves. Objective moral judgment is an essential part of the rational response to such events. Yet circumstances often call for more than judgment: sometimes, forgiveness and redemption come into play. In this lecture given to ATLOSCon in 2012, I explored the nature, function, and limits of forgiveness and redemption in relation to the virtue of justice. Then we applied that understanding to common examples of wrongs and errors.
Tags: Communication, Epistemology, Ethics, Evasion, Forgiveness, Justice, Metaphysics, Moral Judgment, Rationality, Relationships
Q&A: Requiting Evil with Good: 3 Aug 2014, Question 2
Summary: What are the traditional ideas about love and sex in Chinese culture? How did those ideas change in Mao's time? How do Chinese men and women approach romantic and sexual relationships today? Is homosexuality accepted? What is the place of mistresses and prostitutes? Moreover, Robert Garmong told us of the pitfalls of marrying a Chinese woman – and explained why he did exactly that anyway.
Tags: Abortion, China, Communication, Culture, GLBT, Infidelity, Love, Marriage, Prostitution, Romance, Sex, Sex Education, Sexism
Q&A: Compulsory Vaccination: 3 Aug 2014, Question 1
Question: Can evil be requited with good? Christians claim that evil can and ought to be requited with good. So in "Les Miserables", the Bishop inspired Jean Valjean to reform by telling the police that he willingly gave Jean the silver plate (and added the candlesticks) even though Jean stole the silver. Does this strategy ever work to reform an evildoer? Or is it merely a license to further evil? In some cases, might it be useful to "heap burning coals on [an evildoer's] head"? If so, when and why?
Tags: Benevolence, Christianity, Communication, Ethics, Evil, Generosity, Justice, Moral Errors, Moral Judgment, Moral Wrongs, Religion
Q&A: Guilt about Refusing Requests: 20 Jul 2014, Question 3
Question: Should the government mandate vaccination? Advocates of free markets often disagree about whether vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary – and whether they could be justly mandated by law. One problem is that the refusal to vaccinate oneself might put others at risk. Not everyone can be vaccinated, and some people who are vaccinated don't develop immunity. However, when the vast majority of people are vaccinated, that provides "herd immunity" to people who don't have immunity. People who choose not to be vaccinated degrade that herd immunity and thereby put others at risk. Moreover, parents have to choose whether to vaccinate their children or not, and the failure to vaccinate is regarded as neglect by many people – on par with Christian Science parents refusing to give a sick child antibiotics. Given that, should vaccinations be mandated by the government? If so, under what circumstances? Or might people be held civilly liable for transmitting diseases? Or should vaccination be considered a purely private matter between individuals (and institutions)?
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Free Society, Government, Health, Medicine, Negligence, Quarantine, Rights
Interview: Dr. Paul Hsieh on Understanding the Three Languages of Politics: 3 Jul 2014
Question: How can I overcome feelings of unearned guilt about refusing other people's requests? Too often, I feel guilty when I shouldn't – for example, for rejecting unwanted romantic advances or declining invitations to events with family or coworkers. Even though I know logically that I have the right to pursue my own values rather than satisfy the wishes of others, I feel terrible knowing that my actions will disappoint or upset someone else. Too often I succumb to the guilt: I agree to things I'd rather not because I don't want to let someone else down. What philosophical or psychological strategies might I use for dealing with such unearned guilt?
Tags: Altruism, Communication, Egoism, Emotions, Ethics, Guilt, Honesty, Independence, Introspection, Relationships, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice
Q&A: Dogs Versus Private Property: 22 Jun 2014, Question 3
Summary: How many times have you been in political discussions with friends where you find you're talking past one another? You'll make points they consider irrelevant, whereas they'll focus on issues you consider nonessential. Such problems can be overcome, at least in part, using Arnold Kling's concept of the "Three Languages of Politics." Paul Hsieh explained how freedom advocates (e.g., Objectivists and better libertarians), conservatives, and liberals tend to use three vastly different metaphors in political discussions, which can create unintentional misunderstandings and miscommunications. He discussed how to frame discussion points so they better resonate with those speaking the other "languages" without compromising on principles.
Tags: Activism, Campaign Finance, Civilization, Communication, Compromise, Conservatism, Drug War, Firearms, Free Speech, GLBT, Government, Libertarianism, Medicine, Objectivism, Objectivism, Politics, Privacy, Progressivism, Property Rights, Rights, Three Languages of Politics, Values
Q&A: Advice to New Objectivists: 15 Jun 2014, Question 2
Question: Do dog owners violate rights by allowing their dogs to poop on others' lawns? I live in a residential urban area along with many dog owners. On a daily basis, I observe those dog owners allowing their dogs to defecate on other peoples' lawns. I view this action as a trespass and violation of property rights, whether or not they pick up afterward. (For those who believe that picking up after your dog mitigates the trespass, would you let your child play on that spot afterward?) I don't believe that property owners should have to create fences, hedges, or other structures to prevent this trespass. On several occasions, I have asked owners not to let their dogs poop on the front lawn of our apartment. I have received various responses from polite acquiescence to incredulousness. Many dog owners seem to feel a sense of entitlement about using others' property without permission. Isn't that wrong? Would you agree that it is the sole responsibility
of the animal owners to care for their pets without violating the rights of the people around them? What, if any, recourse would property owners have in a free society against blatant repeat offenders of this principle?
Tags: Animals, Communication, Culture, Ethics, Law, Pets, Property Rights, Rights
Q&A: The Presence of Juries at Trials: 15 May 2014, Question 2
Question: What advice would you give to a new Objectivist? At ATLOSCon, you led a discussion on "What I Wish I'd Known as a New Objectivist." Personally, I wish I could tell younger self that the term "selfish" doesn't mean the "screw everyone else, I'm getting mine" behavior that most people think it means. Other people will use the term that way, and trying to correct them is an uphill battle not worth fighting. I'd tell my younger self to just use a long-winded circumlocution to get the point across. What other kinds of obstacles do people new to Objectivism commonly encounter? What advice would you give to new Objectivists to help them recognize and overcome those obstacles?
Tags: Aesthetics, Art, Ayn Rand, Communication, Epistemology, Ethics, Music, Objectivism, Personality, Philosophy, Psychology, Rationalism, Relationships, Values
Q&A: Public Displays of Body Dysmorphia: 4 May 2014, Question 1
Question: Should juries be present at trials? In fictional portrayals of trials, the jury is often told to disregard certain statements. Also, interruptions in the form of objections are common. Wouldn't it be easier for the jury to be absent from the trial itself, then presented with all and only the admissible evidence and testimony afterward? In fact, the jury need not see the parties in question, nor even know their names. Wouldn't that eliminate the possibility of racial discrimination and other irrelevant judgments?
Tags: Communication, Contracts, Crime, Epistemology, Honesty, Juries, Law, Torts
Q&A: Defending Abortion Rights: 20 Apr 2014, Question 3
Question: What should I do when a friend exhibits severe body dysmorphia on social media? At several points in my life, I had a valued friend who seemed otherwise rational and grounded, but who also exhibited dangerous body dysmorphia on social media. In these cases, the friend would first go through a several-month phase of confessing to several psychological problems, such as fantasizing about suicide and of cutting herself with a blade. This friend would then sternly add that she has since recovered, but would admit to still feeling that her natural physical features are ugly and deformed. Then, months later, the friend would go into another phase. On social media, in front of many other people, she would make brazen gestures indicating body dysmorphia, such as uploading photoshopped pictures of herself as a corpse ready for burial or saying that she planned to starve herself to achieve her ideal of being skeletally thin. A major problem was the reaction from our online mutual acquaintances. Some admitted that they saw these problems, yet they acted like the friend was behaving normally. Others outright complimented the dysmorphic imagery and statements. In these cases, I think that my friend knew that her body dysmorphia was dangerous. She put it on display so that others would normalize her pathology, because then she could more easily rationalize her behavior as harmless. That seems really dangerous, but what is the proper alternative? How should people respond when a person puts his pathological self-destruction on display?
Tags: Benevolence, Body Dysmorphia, Body Image, Communication, Egoism, Ethics, Health, Psychology, Relationships, Self-Esteem, Social Media
Q&A: The Need for Support from Others: 27 Feb 2014, Question 2
Question: How can abortion rights be more effectively defended? Although the biblical case against abortion is weak, the religious right has gained much traction against abortion rights in the last decade or two. The "personhood" movement is growing every year, and incremental restrictions on abortion have mushroomed. Even more alarming, the demographics seem to be against abortion rights: young people are increasingly opposed to abortion. What can be done to more effectively defend abortion rights? Can any lessons be drawn from the success of the campaign for gay marriage?
Tags: Abortion, Communication, Conservatism, Ethics, Politics, Pregnancy, Rights
Q&A: Inventing Stories about Yourself: 13 Feb 2014, Question 2
Question: Should my romantic partner be interested in and supportive of my accomplishments and pursuits? I have struggled for years in a relationship with someone who shows no interest in or support for my pursuits. I try not to be hurt. I tell myself I just need to do better in order to be worthy of respect and admiration. When I explain to my partner why I'm hurt, he says I am being needy and that I shouldn't need his praise or reinforcement. I don't know how to logically disagree with this, yet I know how good it feels to receive earned praise from friends, and how painful it feels to accomplish something big and not receive any acknowledgement from my partner. What kind of emotional support should be expected from a partner? If a partner is dismissive and neglectful, how can one gain the confidence needed to leave the relationship?
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Independence, Manipulation, Psychology, Relationships, Romance, Values
Q&A: Explaining Egoistic Benevolence: 22 Dec 2013, Question 1
Question: Is it wrong to invent stories about yourself to tell to strangers? In the past, I've made up stories about myself (basically assuming a character) and told them to strangers on the bus or in an airport. When I mentioned this to my spouse, I hadn't really thought of this as lying until I saw his horrified reaction. Do you think this is wrong? If so, why? Would it be acceptable in some contexts, such as for an acting class?
Tags: Benevolence, Character, Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Justice, Trader Principle
Q&A: Problems with an Aggressive Dog: 15 Dec 2013, Question 2
Question: How can we better explain how helping others can be egoistic? In your October 7, 2013 radio show, you observed that people often don't understand how acting kindly and generously towards friends is self-interested. Instead, they think that being benevolent toward anyone is "other-regarding" and hence, altruistic. How can we egoists untangle this seeming conflict for people?
Tags: Altruism, Benevolence, Communication, Conflicts of Interest, Egoism, Ethics, Manipulation, Meta-Ethics, Predation, Relationships, Sacrifice, Self-Interest, Self-Sacrifice
Q&A: The Right Time to Declare Love: 8 Dec 2013, Question 3
Question: What should a person do about a neighbor's aggressive dog? My husband was attacked (but barely injured) by a neighbor's dog. No one else was in the room at the time. Our children often play at this person's house, and the dog has always been friendly in the past. How do you suggest handling the situation? Should we allow our children to play with the dog, as we always have in the past? What should the owner do about the dog?
Tags: Communication, Neighbors, Parenting, Pets, Relationships, Risk
Q&A: Privacy in Marriage: 17 Nov 2013, Question 4
Question: When should a person declare his love for another? What is an appropriate amount of time to wait before saying "I love you" in a new relationship? New relationships often start out strong, but then the feelings of eros dissipate after a few months. When you meet someone who you share the same values and ideals (and you are super-attracted to him or her) when should you say those three little words?
Tags: Communication, Emotions, Love, Relationships, Romance
Q&A: Winning Friends and Influencing People: 10 Nov 2013, Question 1
Question: Are spouses entitled to privacy with each other? My wife thinks that she should have access to all my online accounts, including my email. I don't have any secrets from her, and my email doesn't contain anything scandalous. Still, I don't want her prying into my conversations, and I don't see that she has any reason to do so. I've never given her any reason to distrust me. Aren't I entitled to some privacy in my marriage?
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Marriage
Q&A: Revealing a Checkered Past: 27 Oct 2013, Question 1
Question: Should a person try to "win friends and influence people"? In the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People
, Dale Carnegie offers a wide range of advice on how to get what you want from other people. Some of this seems manipulative or second-handed, but is that right? Is the advice in the book of genuine value to a rational egoist seeking honest trade with others?
Tags: Communication, Egoism, Ethics, Relationships, Respect, Self-Interest
Interview: Paul Hsieh on Highlights from the Personality Theory Workshop: 23 Oct 2013
Question: How forthcoming should I be with new people I meet about my checkered past? My past is not a source of pride for me. Over four years ago, I read "Atlas Shrugged." That book altered the radical change I was already bringing into my life for the better. I've recently begun meeting other fans of Ayn Rand in real life, and I dislike discussing my white-trash, moocher-esque history with these new acquaintances. (At the time, I was between 17 and 20 years old.) If I shared my past with these people, I think they might judge me harshly and cut ties with me, given that they don't know me well. However, given my past, I have a clearer understanding of the irrational, twisted, cruel, and nasty nature of people who choose to live like leeches off of other human beings. I think that sharing these experiences with others can be a source of strength to them. (I don't want others to stumble into these poor decisions when they could do better!) So how much of my past should I share with other people, and how should I share it?
Tags: Communication, Discretion, Ethics, Friendship, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Relationships, Young Adults
Interview: Jenn Casey on Living Safely with Food Allergies, Part 2: 16 Oct 2013
Summary: In early October, I gathered a few close friends in Atlanta to discuss the ins and outs of personality theory. We focused on various theories of personality, as well as the effects of personality differences at work, in parenting, in personal relations, and in activism. In this episode, my then-husband Paul and I shared the highlights.
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Moral Wrongs, Personality, Psychology, Relationships
Q&A: Keeping Secrets: 29 Sep 2013, Question 1
Summary: Many Americans have food allergies to common foods such as peanuts, dairy, and eggs. Some of those allergies are so serious as to be life-threatening. Jenn Casey's son has a life-threatening peanut allergy, diagnosed when he was a toddler. What must people diagnosed with such allergies do to protect themselves from accidental ingestion? How can parents keep their children with such allergies safe? How should other people in their lives – such as family, friends, and teachers – do to protect them from harm? What should schools, clubs, and other organizations do? This episode is Part Two of Two. Be sure to listen to Part One
Tags: Allergies, Bullying, Children, Communication, Education, Food, Health, Medicine, Parenting, Respect, Schools
Q&A: Accepting Risks in Relationships: 22 Sep 2013, Question 3
Question: When should I respect a person's request to keep information secret? Often, people ask me to keep something they've told me (or will tell me) to myself. Or, they'll ask me not to share it with anyone other than my spouse. Such secrets might consist of happy news that will soon be known, such as future career plans or a pregnancy. That's no problem. However, when the matter is more serious – like psychological struggles, personal wrongdoings, marital troubles, and conflicts with mutual friends – I feel like I'm caught in a bind. Often, I have reason to fear that other people I care about might be hurt, and I feel an obligation to warn them. Is that right? Or am I obliged to keep secrets scrupulously?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Discretion, Ethics, Relationships, Secrets
Interview: Kelly Elmore on The Value of Rhetoric: 21 Aug 2013
Question: How can I help my partner accept my doing risky activities? I would describe my partner as modestly adventurous. He's willing to try things now and then, but there are lots of things that I'd like to do that he not only refuses to do but forbids me to do as well. For example, I saw a deal to take a beginner pilot lesson on LivingSocial. I have no interest in getting my pilot's license, but I think it would be fun to sit in the seat with a teacher and learn a little something about how it's done. To my mind, this is perfectly safe. My partner, however, says, "No way." Also, I want to go swimming with sharks (with supervision, inside a cage). Yes, there's some risk, but I think that sounds like a lot of fun. My boyfriend disagrees. I did talk him into going skydiving with me once, but he refuses to go again. He bought me a gift certificate so I could do another tandem dive. But I loved it enough that I would consider getting certified to jump on my own. Yet he forbids it. People do these kinds of activities all the time without injury or any other harm. Plus, I want to do them with all proper supervision and safety precautions. I'm certain that my boyfriend understands these mandates of his carry little to no weight with me, but I wish he would be a little more reasonable about the way he assesses these risks. I definitely wish he'd find a better way of expressing his concern for my safety than just issuing commands about what I will and will not do. What should I do?
Tags: Boundaries, Communication, Hobbies, Relationships, Risk, Romance, Self-Control, Sports
Q&A: Scolding Other People's Children: 18 Aug 2013, Question 3
Summary: What is rhetoric? Why does it matter? How can the basic concepts of rhetoric help us write more effectively, understand advertising better, or speak more persuasively?
Tags: Activism, Aristotle, Communication, Epistemology, Politics, Relationships
Q&A: Identifying Dangerous People: 4 Aug 2013, Question 1
Question: Is it wrong to discipline other people's children when they refuse to do so? I was eating lunch at an outdoor market. A woman and her son stopped near me, and the boy (who was probably around 8 years old) leaned over my table and stuck his finger in my food. Then he started laughing and ran around in circles. The mom looked at me and dismissively said, "He's autistic." Then she walked away. How should I have responded? Is there a respectful way to tell a stranger that her son's behavior is unacceptable in a public setting? Would it be wrong to speak to the boy directly?
Tags: Boundaries, Children, Communication, Ethics, Moral Wrongs, Parenting
Q&A: Mental Illness as an Excuse for Wrongdoing: 28 Jul 2013, Question 3
Question: How can I better identify dangerous or immoral people in my life? I don't like to be morally judgmental about personality and other optional differences. In fact, I like being friends with a variety of kinds of people: that expands my own horizon. Yet I've been prey to some really awful people in my life. Looking back, I'd have to say that I ignored some signs of trouble – dismissing them as mere optional matters, as opposed to moral failures. How can I better differentiate "interesting" and "quirky" from "crazy" and "dangerous" in people I know? How can I see "red flags" more clearly?
Tags: Character, Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Honesty, Integrity, Justice, Moral Judgment, Moral Wrongs, Personality, Psychology, Relationships, Virtue
Q&A: Responding to Polite Homophobes: 21 Jul 2013, Question 3
Question: Does mental illness excuse wrong behavior? Recently, a friend of mine apologized for making hurtful and unfair comments to me. (It's not the first time she's done that.) She said that she's been struggling with depression, and she's now on anti-depressants and in therapy. I'm not sure how to take that. I feel for her, yet I also feel like I'm being manipulated into overlooking her bad behavior because she's "sick." How should struggles with mental illness figure into explanations and apologies for wrong behavior – if at all?
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Judgment, Manipulation, Mental Illness, Moral Wrongs, Relationships
Q&A: The Ethics of Open Relationships: 26 May 2013, Question 1
Question: How should I respond to people who think that homosexuality is an immoral or neurotic choice? I'm straight, but I have many gay friends. From years of experience, I know that they're virtuous and rational people. Moreover, their romantic relationships are not fundamentally different from mine. Also, I'm a strong believer in gay rights, including gay marriage. So what should I do when confronted with seemingly decent people who think that homosexuality is an immoral choice, based in neurosis, or otherwise unhealthy? These people often present their ideas in polite and seemingly respectable ways; they're not just flaming bigots. Yet still I find them appalling, particularly when used to justify denying rights to gays. Should I be more tolerant of such views? How should I express my disagreement?
Tags: Bigotry, Communication, Epistemology, Ethics, GLBT, Love, Psychology, Romance, Sex, Sexism
Q&A: Poor Communication from the Boss: 19 May 2013, Question 2
Question: Can open relationships be moral? Can it ever be moral to have sex with someone else while in a relationship, assuming that you're honest with everyone involved? If not, why not? If so, what might be some of the pitfalls to be aware of? For example, should the criteria for selecting sexual partners be stricter than if you were single? How should you navigate the tricky territory of opening a previously closed relationship?
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Love, Polyamory, Respect, Romance, Sex
Q&A: Helping a Self-Destructive Friend: 5 May 2013, Question 2
Question: How can I make my boss more communicative? My boss hardly ever tells me company news affecting my projects, even when critical. As a result, I've wasted days and weeks on useless work, and I've gotten into needless conflicts with co-workers. I'm always guessing at what I should be doing, and I just hate that. What can I do to make my boss to be more communicative with me?
Tags: Business, Career, Communication, Personality, Psychology, Work
Q&A: Atheists Attending Religious Ceremonies: 28 Apr 2013, Question 2
Question: Am I obliged to help a friend in trouble due to her own poor choices? I have a friend who is emotionally draining to me, and she is especially "down on her luck" this month. However, her situation is a direct result of especially poor personal choices over the last year, and there is no good path to get her out of the hole of poverty and depression. We don't have much in common other than similar-aged kids, and active participation in a local moms' group, but because I have come to her aid in the past, I feel an unspoken obligation to continue. (Maybe it's guilt, or pity, or empathy?) What are my obligations in a friendship that has recently become more taxing than beneficial? I don't dislike her, and we have many mutual friends, but I just don't think I can muster the time, financial resources, or energy this time to help bail her out of the latest fiasco. Is it morally acceptable to refuse to help? Should I talk to her about why now – or wait until she's less vulnerable?
Tags: Benevolence, Charity, Communication, Emotions, Ethics, Friendship, Integrity, Judgment, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Self-Destruction
Q&A: Self-Interest in Marriage: 28 Apr 2013, Question 1
Question: Is it wrong for an atheist to refuse to attend a sibling's religious ceremony? I've decided not to attend the religious ceremony of my younger sister's upcoming Bat Mitzvah. I'm an atheist, and while I don't think attending would be immoral, I don't want to support any kind of religiosity or connection to religion. Other family members have criticized me for that decision, saying that I should support my sister and not pressure her into agreeing with my own views. Should I attend? If not, how should I handle the family dynamics?
Tags: Atheism, Communication, Ethics, Family, Integrity, Judaism, Religion, Sanction, Siblings
Q&A: Atheist as a Negative Term: 14 Apr 2013, Question 3
Question: Can marriage be self-interested? Most people describe marriage as requiring compromise, sacrifice, and concession. Is that right? Is a happy and fulfilling marriage possible where each person pursues his or her own values, without such compromise, sacrifice, or concession? Is some different approach to marriage required?
Tags: Communication, Compromise, Egoism, Ethics, Marriage, Romance, Sacrifice, Self-Interest
Q&A: The Aftermath of a Friendship: 7 Apr 2013, Question 3
Question: Should people define themselves using the negative term "atheist"? To me, a rational person sells himself short when he calls himself an "atheist": he's only saying what he doesn't stand for, not what he does stand for. Plus, to use the term "atheist" seems to be accepting the religious frame of reference. A rational person values individual healthy human life, and everything else he believes follows from that, such as respect for reality, reason, and rights. When a person defines himself in those positive terms, what he's against follows. So, can a person be more clear and persuasive when he focuses on what he's for rather than what he's against? If so, what terms might he use to describe himself?
Tags: Atheism, Communication, Epistemology, Relationships
Q&A: Dealing with Overzealous Ideologues: 31 Mar 2013, Question 3
Question: What's the proper response to the dissolution of a friendship within a social group? I loved your your May 6th, 2012 discussion of "unforgivable acts," and I have a follow-up question. Now – after cutting my losses with a best friend, after years of giving second chances, talking with him repeatedly, and determining that there's no more basis for a friendship – how do I judge mutual friends of ours? Some of them think that my actions weren't justified. Some resent me for breaking up a group of friends. Many want me to either make up with this person or tolerate him at gatherings. Is this reaction by these mutual friends fair? How should I respond to them?
Tags: Communication, Friendship, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Relationships
Q&A: Replying to Intrusive Inquiries: 31 Mar 2013, Question 1
Question: How can a person deal with overzealous ideologues? Suppose that an overzealous follower of a particular belief system constantly monitors and polices the behavior of other followers. When he sees what he believes to be a failure by someone to live up to their ideals, he attacks that person publicly, trying to shame him into proper behavior. What is the proper response if I am attacked by this overzealous follower in public? What if the attacks are private? Should I respond if my friends and acquaintances are attacked?
Tags: Activism, Communication, Friendship, Integrity, Justice, Objectivist Movement, Paleo, Rationality, Relationships
Q&A: Being an Atheist in a Religious School: 3 Mar 2013, Question 2
Question: How should a person respond when pressured to reveal private information? Some people think themselves entitled to know about the private lives of their co-workers, acquaintances, family, or friends. They won't take a hint, and they might even demand the information in front of other people or in a public forum. How should a person who wishes to protect his privacy respond to such invasive inquiries? Is lying justifiable?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Habits, Honesty, Privacy, Rationality, Relationships
Q&A: Declining a Friend's Plans for Business Partnership: 24 Feb 2013, Question 4
Question: How can an atheist teenager maintain his integrity in a religious school? A few years ago, I read Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged" for the first time. After a year of struggling between faith and reason, I chose reason. Unfortunately, I am a teenager, and I am forced to attend church and a religious school. For a time, I was fine coexisting with religious people. However, in the next academic year, I will have to take a class entitled "Christian Apologetics" in which I will have to pretend to be a Christian theologian. Now my integrity is at stake. How should I confront my religious family about my atheism? How can I persuade them to enroll me a different school?
Tags: Academia, Atheism, Children, Communication, Education, Ethics, Integrity, Parenting, Religion
Q&A: Concern for Attractiveness to Others: 17 Feb 2013, Question 3
Question: How can I say no to a friend's request to become a business partner? Over the past several years, I developed a home craft business. Now that it is successful, one of my friends wants to be involved. She sends messages asking to get together to discuss ideas for new products and expanding the business. However, I am not interested in having a partner. How can I let her know that I don't want a partner – without coming across as mean or hurting her feelings? Also, since I want to support and encourage my friends' interests, I'm struggling with guilt for saying "no." How can I overcome that?
Tags: Business, Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Honesty, Moral Wrongs, Relationships
Q&A: Declining to Socialize at Work: 10 Feb 2013, Question 3
Question: Should you care whether other people find you attractive? I’ve heard some people say they don't care what other people think of their physical appearance: they only care about their own judgment. To care, they say, is second-handed. Is that right? It is wrong to be pleased when someone compliments you on your clothes or hair?
Tags: Aesthetics, Beauty, Communication, Fashion, Friendship, Independence, Relationships, Respect, Romance, Style, Work
Q&A: Staying in a Marriage: 20 Jan 2013, Question 4
Question: How can I politely tell my co-workers that I'm not interested in socializing? I have always struggled with the pressure to form friendships at work. Personally, I don't want to hang out with my coworkers after work. I don't want to chit chat during work. I won't want to celebrate birthdays or other personal events. This is always interpreted as me being snobbish, aloof, and worst of all "not a team player." It's so annoying. I just want to do a good job and then leave, not join a social club. How can I communicate that without being offensive?
Tags: Communication, Friendship, Personality, Productivity, Psychological Visibility, Psychology, Relationships, Work
Q&A: Poking Fun at Values: 6 Jan 2013, Question 3
Question: If a married couple wouldn't marry again, should they split? Many married couples seem to stay together due to inertia, not because they truly value each other. My view is that if a couple wouldn't marry again, they should get divorced. Is that too high a bar in marriage?
Tags: Children, Communication, Marriage, Romance
Q&A: Initiating Contact in Friendship: 6 Jan 2013, Question 2
Question: When does humor work against my values? Sometimes, I wonder whether my jokes undermine what I value. Is it wrong to poke fun at my friends or myself? Is it wrong to joke about principles that I hold dear? How do I draw the line?
Tags: Benevolence, Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Fun, Humor, Introspection, Relationships, Values
Q&A: The Value of Gift Exchanges: 16 Dec 2012, Question 4
Question: Should friends initiate contact with each other roughly equally? Some of my friends never initiate contact with me. They are friendly, loyal, and otherwise great friends. But for any interaction or get-togethers, I must initiate conversation, suggest activities, and so on. Sometimes, I feel as if I value the friendship much, much more than the other person does. Is that an accurate assessment or is something else going on? Should I just seek other friends? Should I talk to these friends about this issue? (If so, what should I say?)
Tags: Communication, Friendship, Personality, Psychology
Q&A: Deception in a Crisis: 16 Dec 2012, Question 2
Question: What is the purpose of exchanging gifts during the holidays? To me, gift exchanges seem meaningless: they're a waste of time and money. What am I missing?
Tags: Communication, Family, Gifts, Holidays, Honesty, Psychological Visibility, Relationships
Q&A: Radical Honesty: 9 Dec 2012, Question 2
Question: Is it moral to deceive to someone to help him through a crisis? Imagine that a man is about to break up with his girlfriend (or divorce his wife), but then he discovers that she has a serious disease or she suffers a serious accident. Is it moral for him to help her through the crisis under the false pretense of a stable, loving relationship? (What if that would take months of deception?) Or should the man be frank with the woman as soon as possible about parting ways, perhaps only offering help as a friend, if that? Would that be cruel?
Tags: Character, Communication, Emergencies, Ethics, Honesty, Relationships, Romance
Interview: Dr. William Dale on End-Of-Life Medical Choices: 28 Nov 2012
Question: Should people be 'radically honest'? Psychotherapist Brad Blanton claims that people should be "radically honest" – meaning that they should say what they think all the time. Is that a life-serving policy – or simply an excuse for rudeness? For example, if my friend is telling me a story that I don't care to hear, should I tell her of my disinterest? Would that foster a more authentic and valuable relationship? Should I try to gently signal my disinterest? Or should I try to cultivate some interest in her story? In other words, is tact a value – or a destructive form of pretense?
Tags: Communication, Emotions, Ethics, Honesty, Psycho-Epistemology, Relationships
Q&A: Sharing Lecture Notes: 18 Nov 2012, Question 4
Summary: Many people struggle with difficult decisions about complex medical problems as they near the end of their lives. That time is wrenching for family too. How can people make good decisions about medical care? What mistakes should they try to avoid? How can people prepare for that future now?
Tags: Adult Children, Communication, Conflict, Death, Emotions, Family, Health, Introspection, Law, Medicine, Rationality, Values
Q&A: Griping Versus Moral Judgment: 18 Nov 2012, Question 2
Question: Is it wrong to refuse to share lecture notes with a lazy student? A classmate of mine is nice enough but a bit odd. She's always at least 30 minutes late for lecture, and she doesn't come to lab sometimes. In lecture, she does not take notes but instead usually draws the whole class period. Today, she asked to borrow some of my lecture notes. I told her that I noticed that she was always late and that she didn't take notes, and she denied that. Still, I told her that lending her my notes would be inconvenient, then I suggested that she ask someone else. Normally, I'd be happy to share my notes, but in this case, I didn't want to share the results of my efforts in attending this class on time, every day, and paying attention. Was that wrong?
Tags: Communication, Culture, Education, Ethics, Free Society, Generosity, Honesty, Moral Wrongs, Responsibility
Q&A: Keeping Contact with Questionable Family: 11 Nov 2012, Question 3
Question: What's the difference between griping about people and morally judging them? I try to be careful in my moral judgments of others, and then act accordingly. However, most people don't seem to do that: they bitch about other people out of annoyance, but then do nothing to solve their problems. What's wrong with such bitching? How can I explain my objections to such bitching in a friendly way? How can I avoid being bitched-to or bitched-about?
Tags: Communication, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Judgment, Justice, Relationships, Relationships
Q&A: Explaining a Break-Up: 11 Nov 2012, Question 2
Question: Should I keep in contact with my morally questionable and mystical father? Recently, I initiated contact with my father. I've not seen or spoken to him for most of my life. He left behind a lot of damage, and I was very hurt by that. I made amends with him, thinking that he was in recovery. However, I recently discovered his eastern mystic philosophy. Also, although he is fully recovered, he still has moral problems. Now I'm second guessing my decision. Would it be immoral for me to break off the contact with him after I've made peace with him? Should I preserve the relationship to keep my character intact? Or should I cut ties with him, on the principle that I should only maintain relationships of value to me?
Tags: Adult Children, Alcohol/Drugs, Communication, Ethics, Family, Honesty, Moral Wrongs, Relationships
Q&A: Preventing Information Overload: 30 Sep 2012, Question 3
Question: Do I owe my boyfriend an explanation for my breaking up with him? I dated my recently-ex-boyfriend for a few months. Over the past few weeks, I realized that some personality and value differences preclude any long-term prospects. When I broke up with him, I didn't give him any reasons why, and that really upset him. Do I owe him an explanation? Would that help or hurt our chances of a cordial relationship in the future? If I should talk to him about my reasons, what should I say?
Tags: Benevolence, Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Relationships, Romance
Q&A: A Religious Wedding for an Atheist Groom: 30 Sep 2012, Question 2
Question: How can I prevent information overload? What are some good ways to limit the amount of information I process in the age of the internet? Besides Philosophy in Action, I follow several other podcasts, blogs, and news feeds. What's the best way to prioritize and limit my inputs without feeling like I'm missing something important? How can I retain the information I process and not feel like I'm jumping from one feed to the next without remembering anything?
Tags: Communication, Epistemology, Internet, Media, Psychology, Social Media, Time Management, Value Hierarchy
Q&A: Conflicts Between Family Members: 9 Sep 2012, Question 2
Question: Should an atheist refuse to have a religious wedding? I'm an atheist, but my fiancée is a not-terribly-devout Christian. My parents – and her parents too – are Christian. Everyone wants and expects us to have a religious wedding, but I don't want that. My future wife would be willing to have a secular wedding, but she prefers a religious one. Mostly, she doesn't want to argue with her parents over it. Should I insist on a secular wedding? Or should I just let this one go? What's the harm, either way?
Tags: Atheism, Communication, Compromise, Family, Honesty, Independence, In-Laws, Integrity, Marriage, Religion, Weddings
Q&A: Fear of Rape: 9 Sep 2012, Question 1
Question: How can I stay out of conflicts between family members? When two people you love have competing claims about the facts in a conflict between them, how do not imply that one or the other is lying? My daughter said she told my wife something important. My wife said my daughter didn't say anything about it. How can you react without destroying one or the other's trust? I wasn't there: I can believe or dis-believe either one. But I am forced by each to choose. When I refuse to choose sides, I'm still subjected to being accused of taking the other's side and calling each one a liar. What can I do to make peace, at least with me?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Family, Justice, Manipulation, Parenting, Rationality
Q&A: Sexual Values in Romance: 2 Sep 2012, Question 2
Question: Should men be sensitive to women's fears of being raped? Recently, I became aware of an ongoing debate among the online atheist community regarding proper conduct of men toward women they do not know. In a June 2011 video reporting on a conference, "Skepchik" Rebecca Watson talked about her experience of being asked to the room of a strange man in an elevator at 4 am. That invitation made her very uncomfortable, and she thought it was very wrong to so sexualize her. Her comments created a firestorm of controversy. Do you think that men need to be sensitive to women's fears about being raped? Should women have such fears around unknown men?
Tags: Atheism, Communication, Crime, Dating, Ethics, Feminism, Harassment, Rape, Respect, Rights, Sexism, Violence
Q&A: Expressing Frustration: 19 Aug 2012, Question 3
Question: How important are a person's particular sexual values in a romantic relationship? The problems in many relationships seem to be due to conflicting sexual values, such as one partner wanting variety while the other opposes an open relationship. So why aren't such sexual values considered at least on par with other important values in a relationship? When faced with sexual problems, why is the assumption that a couple needs to "work on them" – as opposed to thinking that such problems should be resolved before any commitment? In other words, before accepting and establishing a relationship, shouldn't people seek sexual compatibility in the same way they seek emotional compatibility?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Dating, Ethics, Relationships, Romance, Sex
Q&A: Inappropriate Gifts from In-Laws: 5 Aug 2012, Question 2
Question: When and how should I express my frustration to another person? I've always found it difficult to determine whether I should express a frustration to another person, whether in a personal or professional context. When and how should I tell someone that they've disrespected, offended, or insulted me? Does the nature of the relationship – purely financial or deeply emotional, for example – matter?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Emotions, Ethics, Relationships, Work
Q&A: Five Love Languages: 22 Jul 2012, Question 1
Question: How should I respond to an unwanted gift given to me by my in-laws? My in-laws often give me presents that I don't much like – like frumpy boring sweaters and books I'll never read. I thank them kindly for the present, but I'm not effusive in my praise. Recently, they gave me something really pretty inappropriate for me – on par with giving a bacon cookbook to a vegetarian. I wasn't sure whether it was just clueless or hostile. How should I respond?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Honesty, Marriage, Relationships
Interview: Rachel Miner on Romantic Extras: 18 Jul 2012
Question: What do you think of the "Five Love Languages"? The basic idea of the "Five Love Languages" is that every person has "a primary way of expressing and interpreting love," and that "we all identify primarily with one of the five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch." What do you think of this concept? Do you think that a person's "love language" might be connected to his personality traits?
Tags: Communication, Dating, Gifts, Marriage, Personality, Psychology, Relationships, Romance
Q&A: Speaking Out Against Bigotry: 15 Jul 2012, Question 2
Summary: Most couples know the joy of sharing loving "extras" with their partner. In fact, making those efforts to do something special isn't really "extra," it's part of a vibrant romantic relationship. The challenge is figuring out what actions to take in practice.
Tags: Communication, Marriage, Personality, Psychology, Relationships, Romance
Interview: Santiago Valenzuela on DiSC Personality Profiles: 11 Jul 2012
Question: When should a person speak up against bigotry? My boyfriend and I were at a party at the home of one of his coworkers. One person at the party started using offensive homophobic slurs, so I asked him not to use that kind of language. He persisted, and the conversation escalated into an argument. My boyfriend did not take a position, and he later said he "didn't want to get involved" and that it had been "none of my business" to stick my neck out against the bigot. I believe that silence implies acceptance. Though there may not be a moral obligation to intervene, it still seems like the right thing to do. What is the moral principle behind this? Is it important enough to end a relationship over?
Tags: Bigotry, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, GLBT, Justice, Race, Relationships
Q&A: Sanction of Friends: 8 Jul 2012, Question 3
Summary: DiSC is a personality profile system that uses four basic profiles: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness. A person can use DiSC to understand himself more deeply, capitalize on his strengths, compensate for his weaknesses, and communicate and collaborate with others better. How so?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Marriage, Personality, Psychology, Relationships, Work
Q&A: Managing Office Politics: 8 Jul 2012, Question 2
Question: Am I responsible for the actions of my friends? Suppose that a friend of mine does something that others find objectionable. Am I obliged to state my opinion of what my friend did? If I refuse to state an opinion, should others assume that I endorse my friend's actions?
Tags: Communication, Friendship, Moral Wrongs, Sanction
Q&A: Refuting Marxist Arguments: 10 Jun 2012, Question 4
Question: How can a person effectively manage office politics? In almost any job, the internal politics of the company can be overwhelming. If you speak out, you can be embroiled in conflict and drama. If you stay silent, the pushy people will have their way, often for the worse. What should a person do who wants to actually work?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Personality, Psychology, Relationships, Work
Interview: Santiago Valenzuela on Communication in Management: 6 Jun 2012
Question: How can I effectively counter Marxist economic arguments? My family and friends often advocate Marxist economic ideas – for example, that wealth should be redistributed according to need, that corporations and corporate profits are evil, and that rich people have too much money. How can I best respond to these arguments?
Tags: Altruism, Collectivism, Communication, Economics, Ethics, Politics
Q&A: Taking Criticism Well: 3 Jun 2012, Question 3
Summary: In the workplace, the quality and quantity of communication between a manager and his directs hugely influences productivity. How can that communication be improved?
Tags: Business, Communication, Leadership, Management, Work
Q&A: Responding to Irrational Discussion Tactics: 3 Jun 2012, Question 1
Question: How can a person learn to take criticism well? Some people don't take kindly to criticism, even if offered in a benevolent and constructive way. Why are some people intolerant of criticism? Why is that a problem? How can such people learn to take criticism better? How can others deal with someone overly sensitive to criticism without compromise or dishonesty?
Tags: Communication, Justice, Rationality, Self-Improvement
Chat: Meeting New People: 30 May 2012
Question: How should a person respond to another's irrational discussion tactics? What should one do when engaged in an intellectual conversation with someone where you're trying to advance your ideas, but the other person has irrational, or even outright dishonest conversation techniques? Such techniques include frequent interruption, talking over you, giving arbitrary time limits for answers before arbitrarily ending the conversation or moving on, and so forth. All of these tactics make it difficult to fully explicate your position or even get full sentences out. In a one-on-one, unobserved conversation, I know it's obvious that one should simply not deal with this person, for they're obviously not listening if they utilize these habits so regularly and frequently. So my main concern is in those cases when you happen to be talking to an irrational conversationalist where other people are observing, such as in a classroom or meeting where you might want to continue the conversation in hopes of reaching the audience instead. In such cases, what should one do?
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Personality, Psychology, Rationality
Q&A: Spousal Sabotage: 27 May 2012, Question 3
Summary: What are the best ways to seek out promising prospects for friendship or romance? What can you do to make yourself a better prospect to others?
Tags: Communication, Community, Dating, Friendship, Relationships, Romance
Q&A: Outing Yourself to Bigots: 27 May 2012, Question 2
Question: How can I stop my spouse from sabotaging my self-improvement? Over the course of my 15 years of marriage, I'd gained over 100 pounds. After feeling disgusted with myself for too long, I decided to change my habits. So I switched to a paleo-type diet and started lifting weights. So far, I've lost 40 pounds, as well as shed some health problems. My husband still eats what he pleases, and I don't pester him about that, although he needs to eat better too. However, he's constantly attempting to undermine my efforts – for example, by bringing home and encouraging me to eat doughnuts. I want him to celebrate and support my new-found success, but he seems to want me to be fat, unhealthy, and miserable. What should I do?
Tags: Communication, Diet, Ethics, Food, Habits, Health, Marriage, Nutrition, Paleo, Psychology
Q&A: Disclosing Atheism to Babysitters: 27 May 2012, Question 1
Question: Am I obliged to disclose that I am gay if I know that the person then wouldn't wish to do business with me? Let's say that I have a job that I enjoy, but I find out that my boss does not like gay people and would refuse to hire or would fire anyone that she knew was gay. Somehow, she doesn't know that I am, in fact, gay. Should I tell her knowing that she would want to fire me – a decision that I think is wrong, but nonetheless something she should be free to do? Assume that in every other regard I enjoy my work and job, and sharing her discriminatory view is by no means a requirement for my work.
Tags: Business, Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, LGBT, Privacy, Rationality, Religion, Work
Q&A: Warning Others about Dangerous People: 20 May 2012, Question 1
Question: Should I mention we are atheists when interviewing babysitters? I am looking for a babysitter. The question is: How do I handle the fact that many of the candidates will be very very strong Christians? Should I bring up the fact we are atheists right away or would that be creating an issue when there could be none? I definitely have to set some boundaries like "No praying with my children," but what is the appropriate way to handle it?
Tags: Business, Children, Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Parenting, Religion
Q&A: Pushy Fundraising: 13 May 2012, Question 3
Question: Should you warn others about vicious people in your community? If you know a person to be dishonest, but that person is well-regarded in your community, should you tell others in that community what you know? Does it matter if the person is in a position of authority (perhaps over an organization's finances), such that he could do a whole lot of damage? What kinds of immorality would be serious enough to warrant warning others?
Tags: Communication, Community, Cowardice, Ethics, Justice, Leadership
Chat: Apologies and Forgiveness: 9 May 2012
Question: How should I respond to the constant demands to contribute to fundraisers from my child's school? I am barraged with "requests" for contributions to school fundraisers. This week, for example, each student in the band is asked to put together a "buddy bag" with sweets (against my views), a toy (more plastic junk to fill the landfills), and a gift (I can't afford that). Every week, there's another fundraiser, for which parents are asked to spend their money on things they don't value or aren't a fair value. Should I refuse these requests – and if so, how should I do so?
Tags: Charity, Communication, Education, Ethics, Parenting
Chat: Protecting Your Privacy: 2 May 2012
Summary: When a person wrongs you, when should you forgive him? When should you ask someone to forgive you?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Forgiveness, Moral Wrongs, Redemption, Relationships
Q&A: Encouraging Friends to Be More Purposeful: 22 Apr 2012, Question 4
Summary: Do you wonder what people are entitled to know about you? Do you want to maintain your privacy without resorting to dishonesty?
Tags: Children, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Honesty, Parenting, Privacy, Relationships, Responsibility, Romance, Secrets
Q&A: Poking Fun at Friends' Ideas Online: 22 Apr 2012, Question 3
Question: How can I encourage my friends to be more purposeful and passionate? I have been certain about my life's purpose – in terms of what career and personal creative works I'd like to pursue – from a young age. I've had friends who are above-average in their academic and career work, and who explore various hobbies, but they do not pursue those activities with eager passion. They say that they "do not know what they want out of life" and have not "found their calling." What is at the root of uncertainty about one's purpose? Is there a moral breach involved? How can I motivate, encourage, and inspire my friends?
Tags: Career, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Friendship, Productiveness, Purpose, Relationships
Q&A: Talking About Selfishness: 25 Mar 2012, Question 3
Question: Is poking fun at people's ideas on social media rude, offensive, or otherwise wrong? For example, is it proper to make jokes about Jesus, Obama, or environmentalism on Facebook - knowing that some of your Facebook friends are Christians, Democrats, or environmentalists? Should those people be offended? Should a person limit himself to serious arguments?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Internet, Relationships, Social Media
Q&A: Unfriendly Disputes in Online Communities: 25 Mar 2012, Question 1
Question: Should I use the term "selfish" in conversation without explanation? According to Ayn Rand, selfishness means acting for your own long-range life and happiness, and that's moral and proper. Yet most people think that selfishness means brutalizing other people, lying and cheating to satisfy your desires, or at least acting like an insensitive jerk. Should I avoid using the term unless I can explain what I mean by it? And how can I best explain its proper meaning?
Tags: Communication, Epistemology, Ethics, Justice, Objectivism, Selfishness
Q&A: Offers of Prayers for Atheists: 11 Mar 2012, Question 4
Question: Why are disputes so belligerent in online communities? I've noticed that people get into very loud and heated disputes online, whereas that doesn't seem to happen in local communities. Disputes in local communities tend to be less frequent, less belligerent, and last for a shorter time - even when some people end up hating each other and refusing to have anything to do with each other in the end. Why is that? Also, why do people who are closest with each other (whether close friends, dating, or married) seem to agree more on hot-button issues? Are people more willing to reject a stranger's arguments than those of a friend? Is that an error?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Emotions, Etiquette, Friendship, Internet, Objectivity, Relationships, Social Media
Q&A: The Health of Cynicism and Sarcasm: 11 Mar 2012, Question 3
Question: What should I do when other people offer to pray for me? Sometimes my friends and family members offer to pray for me – whether because I've got some problem in my life or because they know that I'm an atheist. How should I respond?
Tags: Atheism, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Family, Friendship, Honesty, Integrity, Relationships, Religion
Q&A: Responding to Requests for Prayers: 4 Mar 2012, Question 2
Question: Are cynicism and sarcasm unhealthy? I know some very bright people who also frequently express cynicism and sarcasm towards world events, public figures, etc. Their remarks can often be quite witty and insightful. But is there something unhealthy about looking at the world in this way, or can that be an appropriate response to all the many real negative facts of reality?
Tags: Benevolence, Benevolent Universe Premise, Communication, Humor, Malevolent Universe Premise, Philosophy, Psychology, Relationships
Q&A: False But Beneficial Ideas: 5 Feb 2012, Question 2
Question: What is the proper response of an atheist to requests for prayers? A relative of mine recently had surgery to have his appendix removed. I was asked by another relative to pray for the first relative, even though everyone in my family knows that I don't believe in God or the power of prayer. I tried to let it slide during the conversation, but she was insistent. How should I respond to such requests for prayers, particularly when I don't want to offend anyone or seem unconcerned?
Tags: Atheism, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Family, Friendship, Honesty, Integrity, Relationships, Religion
Q&A: Explaining Atheism: 29 Jan 2012, Question 4
Question: Should you just keep quiet when a friend's bad philosophy works for him? If someone you know pretty well believes in something mystical, such as "The Law of Attraction" (from "The Secret"), or "The Power of Prayer," and this has helped them move their outlook on life toward a benevolent universe premise, and they are more productive and happier, is it better to leave them with their faulty metaphysics and avoid the topic, or should you try to show them the error? What do you say when they start trying to convince you of the truth of their view?
Tags: Communication, Friendship, Philosophy, Relationships
Q&A: Feigning Indifference to Attract a Man: 29 Jan 2012, Question 2
Question: How can I effectively explain my atheism to religious believers? When I discuss religion with believers – mostly Christians – I find that I can't easily explain why I don't believe in God. Should I appeal to the principle of the "primacy of existence"? Should I explain the problems with the arguments for the existence of God? Or should I try a different approach?
Tags: Atheism, Communication, Faith, Metaphysics, Religion
Q&A: Addressing Problems with Neighbors: 25 Sep 2011, Question 4
Question: Should I act uninterested in a man to attract him? One common theme in romance advice is that a woman should act aloof and unattainable in order to attract a man or to get him to commit to a relationship. Is that dishonest? Is it counterproductive?
Tags: Communication, Dating, Honesty, Relationships, Romance
Q&A: Friendships with People of Opposite Philosophy: 21 Aug 2011, Question 2
Question: How do I ask my neighbor not to take liberties with my driveway? I work out of my office on the ground floor of our home overlooking the street with partial view of our driveway. Every day, several times a day, a neighbor uses our driveway as a turnaround instead of using the intersection one house down, or her own driveway. My big problem with this is that she is using our private property for public use. I also find this distracting when I'm working as every time she pulls into the driveway I think someone is visiting. I'm having a difficult time deciding how to approach this as I want to remain friendly with my neighbor, and don't want to come off as an unbearable jerk for just asking her not to use my property. How would you approach this situation?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Neighbors, Property, Relationships, Rights
Q&A: Meeting Estranged Former Friends: 7 Aug 2011, Question 4
Question: How can I maintain my integrity in friendships with people of opposite philosophic views? I struggle to keep good relations with family and friends who support our current political system in which some people are helped at the expense of others, which I regard as slavery. They support ObamaCare, EPA restrictions, and welfare programs. Through years of caring discussions, I realize that they do not hold the individual as sacred but instead focus on what's best for "the group." At this point, I often feel more pain than pleasure being with them, even though we have many other values in common, yet I hate to cut them off. How can I maintain good relationships with them – or should I stop trying?
Tags: Communication, Compartmentalization, Conflict, Family, Friendship, Justice, Philosophy, Relationships, Values
Q&A: Explaining Egoism to Others: 24 Jul 2011, Question 4
Question: What should you do when you meet someone who treated you badly in the past? Recently, I ran into a person at an event who I used to know as a fellow member of a local discussion group. When he left the group about a year ago, he posted a long rambling e-mail to our mailing list condemning us for all kinds of imaginary sins. The letter was unfair and rude – not to mention wholly unnecessary. I avoided talking to him when I saw him recently, but I wish I'd said something pointed to him. What, if anything, should I have said?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Judgment, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Relationships
Q&A: Letting Friends Fail: 10 Jul 2011, Question 4
Question: Why should I be an egoist? How do you explain that in layman's terms to someone in your life?
Tags: Communication, Egoism, Ethics, Self-Interest
Q&A: Swearing Before Strangers: 10 Jul 2011, Question 3
Question: Are there times when you shouldn't help a friend? If you see a friend taking some action which may be ultimately self-defeating or self-destructive, but you are pretty sure they don't have the knowledge or experience to understand the future consequences of their actions, should you allow them to learn on their own or stop them from making a mistake that you know will be disastrous?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Friendship, Moral Wrongs, Relationships
Q&A: Announcing Life-Changing New Beliefs: 10 Jul 2011, Question 1
Question: Should you swear in front of strangers? Swearing is sometimes a great "exclamation point" when you're telling a story or having an intense or extraordinary conversation. But, is it appropriate to swear in front of people who don't know you very well? Is that poor manners? Would "being yourself" conflict with "putting your best foot forward" in this case?
Tags: Communication, Communication, Ethics, Integrity, Relationships
Q&A: Tact Versus Honesty: 26 Jun 2011, Question 3
Question: When a person adopts a life-changing set of beliefs, how should he present that to family and friends? The point would not be to try to convince them to follow, but to say "look... this is what I believe, these are the principles by which I now live my life now, and please respect my choice to do so."
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Family, Friendship, Philosophy, Relationships
Q&A: Deflating Bragging Looters: 19 Jun 2011, Question 5
Question: Is it dishonest to use tact when talking to someone? When I have something important to tell someone and I am concerned that the other person might be put on the defensive or have hurt feelings, I try to say what I need to say with tact. That is, I change what I say from brutal honesty to something easier for a person to hear and accept. However, I worry that I'm being dishonest in doing so. When does using tact cross the line into dishonesty?
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Etiquette, Honesty
Q&A: Dismissing Arguments with Pejorative Language: 12 Jun 2011, Question 6
Question: What is the best way to handle "proud" looters? What is the safest and most effective way to deal with the people who ignorantly brag about the fact that they are free-loaders on others, including using government programs and "public" funds?
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Judgment, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Politics, Welfare
Q&A: Appropriating Insulting Terms: 12 Jun 2011, Question 5
Question: Is pejorative rhetoric useful? When should you or when may you describe someone's argument or analysis in pejorative terms, because you don't consider them intellectually honest or educable, and you just want to make it clear to the wider audience that you don't accept them as a worthwhile opponent? Is it acceptable to just vent in such cases?
Tags: Communication, Epistemology, Ethics, Language
Q&A: Responding to Expressions of Hatred for Work: 12 Jun 2011, Question 3
Question: What do you think of people using pejorative terms for themselves, such as gays referring to themselves as "faggots" or Objectivists calling themselves "Randroids"? The term "Randroid" is supposed to imply that Objectivists are unthinking, mindless drones. However, I happily use this term to describe myself – after first calling myself an Objectivist, of course – because I think it squashes a lot of the negativity behind the pejorative when I adopt it willingly. Do you think it's for good Objectivists to adopt this term – and more generally, for people to use insults as badges of honor?
Tags: Communication, Culture, Epistemology, GLBT, Justice, Language, Race
Q&A: Visiting Home for the Holidays: 5 Jun 2011, Question 2
Question: How should I respond when people disparage their work? Often, people make comments about the great burden that work is – not in the sense that they're unhappy with some problem in their current job, but that they resent the need to work at all. These are the kinds of people who live for weekends and vacations. I don't feel that way about my work, and I think these people are missing so much in life. How can I respond to such casual remarks in a way that might make the person re-think their attitude?
Tags: Communication, Emotions, Ethics, Moral Wrongs, Productiveness, Work
Q&A: Growing Out of Ayn Rand: 15 May 2011, Question 5
Question: Am I obliged to visit my family for the holidays? I'm in my mid-20s. My family expects me to return home for the holidays, i.e. for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I dislike the trouble of traveling during that hectic time. (I live across the country.) Also, I dislike the chaotic bustle at my parents' home during the holidays. I feel like I never get to spend meaningful time with anyone, and I'm stuck with people I can barely tolerate. I'd prefer to visit family I like at other times in the year. However, my parents would be extremely angry with me if I refused to come home during the holidays. They'd probably attempt to make me feel guilty for ruining their holidays. Should I just give in to their wishes? If not, how can I make them accept that I'd rather visit at some other time?
Tags: Adult Children, Communication, Ethics, Family, Holidays, Parenting
Q&A: Kids and Religion: 10 Apr 2011, Question 6
Question: What do people mean when they say "I liked Ayn Rand's ideas, but then I grew up"? On several occasions, I have discussed Rand's ideas with others. They have admitted to reading Atlas Shrugged
or The Fountainhead
when a teenager. They claim that they liked or even agreed with her ideas back then. "But, now I've grown up." I guess that is supposed to embarrass me since I am in my mid-40's. It doesn't. But I am left wondering, what is going on in their heads? Are they just jaded? Do they think life naturally leads to pragmatism or an acceptance of evil?
Tags: Ayn Rand, Communication, Life, Objectivism, Philosophy
Q&A: Pressure to Procreate: 10 Apr 2011, Question 4
Question: Should atheistic parents encourage their children to explore religion? Why or why not? And if so, how?
Tags: Atheism, Children, Communication, Education, Religion
Q&A: Asking a Person Out: 20 Mar 2011, Question 6
Question: What do you say to parents pressuring you to have kids? Lately, my parents have been urging my wife and me to have kids. They really want grandkids, I think. So they've been dropping not-so-subtle hints to that effect. Also, they say that I'll regret not having kids, that kids are just part of being an adult, that I'll adore my own kids once I have them, and so on. What should I say in reply to those kinds of hints and comments?
Tags: Adult Children, Children, Communication, Conflict, Family, Parenting, Parents, Relationships
Q&A: Keeping Secrets from a Spouse: 13 Mar 2011, Question 3
Question: How should one approach a girl one is interested in? How does one go about asking her on a date?
Tags: Communication, Dating, Relationships, Romance
Q&A: Helpful Criticism of Others: 20 Feb 2011, Question 1
Question: Should you tell someone else's secret to a spouse? I know a lot of times when I share personal information with my best friend, I assume that she will (and am okay with) her sharing some or all of that information with her significant other. I think she makes the same assumption, that I will share some of what she tells me with my husband. If (hypothetically) there was something I didn't want her significant other to know about, would I be right in asking that she keep a secret from him? On one hand, the information I'm sharing is personal and I might like to keep it between us. On the other, is it right to ask her to keep something from him?
Tags: Communication, Friendship, Honesty, Marriage, Secrets
Q&A: Gossip: 13 Feb 2011, Question 5
Question: How can I criticize someone's work without hurting their feelings? In student theater circles, I struggle to be honest when asked what I thought of an actor's performance, or a director's job, or the writer's work. The writing can be very bad and the performances pretty flat too. My first instinct is to latch onto anything positive I can in the play, and to just talk about that. However, then I seem to be someone afraid to offer criticism to someone's face, and I'd hate to criticize behind their back. So how can I be critical in a helpful and friendly way?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Emotions, Etiquette, Relationships
Q&A: Online Jerks: 16 Jan 2011, Question 3
Question: What is a proper view of gossip? Should a rationally egoistic person listen to and/or tell gossip about other people? Why or why not?
Tags: Communication, Epistemology, Ethics, Relationships
Q&A: When to Speak Out: 2 Jan 2011, Question 6
Question: Why are some people such jerks on the internet? Some seemingly decent people become downright malicious bastards on the internet, particularly when posting anonymously. Why is that? What does such behavior say about a person's moral character? How can a person keep his manners, his benevolence, and his cool in full force when online?
Tags: Character, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Internet, Judgment, Justice, Relationships, Social Media
Q&A: Topics for First Dates: 26 Dec 2010, Question 5
Question: Under what circumstances does it become incumbent to challenge another's beliefs, especially in a religious context?
Tags: Communication, Integrity, Responsibility, Sanction
Q&A: Capitalism as Misunderstood: 19 Dec 2010, Question 6
Question: What are some good topics to discuss on a first or second date? Also, what topics should be avoided?
Tags: Communication, Dating, Romance
Q&A: Talking about Sexual Preferences: 19 Dec 2010, Question 2
Question: Why is capitalism so misunderstood? I've noticed a huge backlash against capitalism in the media and on the internet for a while. Why? Why are people so resentful towards capitalism when it gave them all the prosperity?
Tags: Capitalism, Communication, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics
Q&A: In-Laws as "Mom" and "Dad": 5 Dec 2010, Question 4
Question: When do you talk to a romantic interest (or partner) about your sexual preferences? Is there a right or wrong way to talk with your romantic partner about sexual preferences? Do you wait until you are "in the sack" to find out whether you are sexually compatible? And, how important is sexual compatibility to a romantic relationship?
Tags: Communication, Dating, Romance, Sex
Q&A: Facebook Friending Policy: 28 Nov 2010, Question 4
Question: Should people call their parents-in-law "Mom" and "Dad"? My brother in law started calling my parents "mom" and "dad" – and in turn my sister now calls his parents "mom" and "dad". This seriously offends me. My parents earned the title of mom and dad. They RAISED us – they cared for us, educated us, taught us values, loved us, and corrected us when we were wrong. My relationship with my parents is one of the most important relationships of my life and one I don't take lightly. I would never think to call anyone else "mom" and "dad" because no one else has even remotely earned it. It would only cheapen the relationship for me. I think my brother in law is being too familiar with my parents, and disrespectful to his own (and vice versa for my sister). Are my feelings valid? And what can I do about them if they are not?
Tags: Communication, Family, In-Laws, Marriage, Relationships
Q&A: Arguing Religion with Family: 14 Nov 2010, Question 2
Question: What's a reasonable friending policy for Facebook? I've been getting more Facebook friend requests from people I don't know lately. Should I accept or refuse them?
Tags: Communication, Internet, Relationships, Social Media
Q&A: Dealing with Severely Irrational People: 14 Nov 2010, Question 1
Question: My father and his side of the family are very religious while I am not. Is it moral for me to jeopardize my relationship with them to share the countless fallacies and inhumanities that is religion? If so, how does one go about this process?
Tags: Atheism, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Family, Relationships, Religion
Q&A: Reminders of Death: 7 Nov 2010, Question 5
Question: What is the proper etiquette in regards to dealing with a deeply irrational person you have to deal with temporarily? Especially when his irrationality interferes with your value pursuits to some extent.
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Etiquette, Rationality, Relationships
Q&A: Contentious Objectivist Debates: 7 Nov 2010, Question 2
Question: Why do some habitually project their death as a means of silencing criticisms or getting people to do what they want? E.g. a senior that intimidates his children to answer the phone by stating his next call might be while he's actively dying.
Tags: Communication, Death, Ethics, Manipulation, Psychology, Relationships
Q&A: Chronic Complainers: 31 Oct 2010, Question 4
Question: Objectivists seem to be disagreeing a lot recently about some hot button issues. Do you have any principles to suggest on how to best handle such disagreements?
Tags: Communication, Conflict, Etiquette, Justice, Objectivist Movement, Relationships
Podcast: Preview of Finding Good Prospects for Romance and Friendship: 10 Jun 2010
Question: What are your thoughts on people who complain about their problems but never pursue to solve them, or, worse, actively evade and ignore solutions that confront them? E.g. a student who complains about his budget but continues to spend irrationally.
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Judgment, Justice, Moral Wrongs
Podcast: Noticing Change in a Spouse or Lover: 28 Oct 2009
Many people lament the difficulty of finding good prospects for a lasting, deep, and happy romance. Others have trouble finding worthwhile friends. Yet most people who bemoan the lack of prospects could be doing much more than they are to increase their odds of success. Too many people don't adopt a purposeful approach but instead wait passively... and complain.
This 90-minute podcast discusses how to make yourself a good prospect – and how to find good prospects – for romance and friendship.
Tags: Character, Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Lifestyle, Luck, Marriage, Mental Illness, Opportunities, Personality, Psychological Visibility, Psychology, Romance, Skills, Values
Podcast: The Launch: 1 Sep 2009
Summary: I discuss the error of expecting a spouse or lover to notice some change about you – and the proper approach.
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Personality, Relationships
Summary: I introduce myself, discuss the new Atlas Shrugged Reading Groups
sponsored by Front Range Objectivism
, and offer my advice on an ethical question about a no-show at a wedding.
Tags: Activism, Atlas Shrugged, Boundaries, Communication, Egoism, Ethics, Literature, Moral Wrongs, Objectivism, Wedding